Monocle: 'It's the media project that I've always wanted to do'

Tyler Brûlé tells Matthew Bell how his magazine turns a profit, and why 'The Guardian' hates him

Even among those who have never heard of Tyler Brûlé – the Canadian war reporter-turned fashion editor, turned universal taste arbiter – mention of his name can provoke strong emotions.

"Tyler Brûlé is a character in Sex and the City, right? I mean no one is really called that", is one of the tamer comments posted on a Guardian story reporting how he came to be voted 101st on its list of the media's most influential figures.

Among those who know Brûlé, (it's his real name, he says he is descended from Etienne Brûlé, the 16th-century French explorer who founded Toronto), emotions run even higher, and he enjoys extreme loyalty from his staff. Voting for the joke slot on The Guardian's list was open to the public, and Brûlé mysteriously drew 160 votes in the last half-hour of polling, all from a single IP address, registered to the Marylebone offices of Monocle magazine.

This is Brûlé's latest creation, a slick monthly that would be called a glossy were it not printed on chic matt paper. Otherwise it is a direct competitor to many Condé Nast titles, covering fashion, travel, business and style-conscious urban pursuits such as shopping and fine dining. In a way it is about "everything that is around us", the term Brûlé used to describe Wallpaper*, the style bible with which he captured the zeitgeist in 1996, selling it a year later to Time Warner for an alleged $1.7m.

Monocle was founded in 2007 and Brûlé remains very much in charge, as you find if you visit the office on press day. Readers of his Fast Lane column in the Financial Times will know he spends a lot of time jetting between Tokyo, New York, Copenhagen, Beirut and other cool cities, but he always swoops into London in the few days before Monocle goes to press.

Day-to-day editing is overseen by Andrew Tuck, formerly of this newspaper, but Brûlé cares about every last caption and comma. The offices, as you would expect, are fully feng shui'ed, and populated exclusively with slim, attractive, fashionably coiffured young men and women. They all use the latest Mac computers. If you ask for a coffee, it comes in a minimalist white cup on its own limed-oak board, with a single brown sugar cube and modernist zinc teaspoon.

Sometimes he toys with moving the offices to Berlin or Geneva, he says, but would he want to sell up altogether? "This is the media project I've always wanted to do," he adds. "So I'm in no hurry to sell it." Which, of course, is not to say that he wouldn't if the right offer come along. "But," he says, "it raises the question of who do you sell to today?" He goes on to discuss the straitened market and the fact that, by investing in a print brand, he is swimming against the trend of digitalisation.

Brûlé is proud to be investing in journalism: he has just appointed former Independent on Sunday journalist Steve Bloomfield as foreign editor and last week opened a bureau in Hong Kong, with another planned for Sao Paulo. He employs 100 people and claims to have just broken into profit. No wonder the loss-making Guardian hates him. Two years ago, that paper's managing director, Tim Brooks, said in an interview: "If I had a pound for every title that will close in 2009, I'd have enough money to subscribe to Monocle and Intelligent Life – but that would be pointless ... neither of them will be around by the end of the year." He also predicted the demise of this newspaper and pledged not to make redundancies at his own, both of which, as Brûlé points out, "rather went in the opposite direction".

It was Brûlé's publicist who organised the Media-list mass voting, he says, which had nothing to do with him. "We are a growing print product, we are investing in journalism, we are challenging the market – it's surprising that we weren't high up on the list to begin with, to be brutally frank." In describing his fractious relationship with The Guardian he reveals that, before she left to head easyJet, chief executive Carolyn McCall rang to ask how he created his subscription model, which charges 50 per cent more to subscribers. "She wanted to know which consultants we used, and their number, and I laughed and told her we came up with it over a bottle of wine in the kitchen. We just felt this is how it should be done."

Brûlé's confidence is encouraging, and he has just launched a one-off broadsheet newspaper for the summer, Monocle Mediterraneo. Monocle circulation is 150,000, with Korea and Hong Kong two of his strongest markets. He is proud the title is in the top 200-selling magazines at Barnes & Noble in New York, which may not sound much, but "that does include all the Sudoku mags".

For his impressive achievements as an entrepreneur and his contribution to style – he is wearing shorts when he meet, but still commands authority – we recognise him in today's IoS Pink List of influential gay people in Britain. In Monocle he has created, against the odds, a profitable global print brand. And for that we should be grateful.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst - High Wycombe - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst role...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Sauce Recruitment: New Media Marketing Manager - EMEA - Digital Distribution

£35000 - £45000 per annum + up to £45,000: Sauce Recruitment: The Internation...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing / PR / Social Media Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A thriving online media busines...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower